Home > Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(9)

Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(9)
Author: H.M. Ward

Cassie's face paled. She'd never forget that. It seemed like nothing at first - some people running around trying to figure out what happened, while she and Cole played quietly. The night ended in more spilled blood than she'd ever seen in her life. The Deliverance Day Cole was referring to was a massacre. She nodded once, her throat too tight to talk. Cole saved her that night. "Do you think that'll happen here?"

"I'm not sure," Cole replied, "but based on the way things feel - yes. It's possible." The tension in the air was palpable. They both sensed it.

Cassie's gaze lifted to see the end of the hallway was empty. Alice was gone. Cassie didn't want to be Paired. She didn't want to die. Not yet. She leaned forward and pressed her hands to her face. Strange thoughts started to drift through her mind, foreign thoughts of living on their own of surviving without the vampires. Was that even possible anymore?

"Cassie," a new voice called her name, snapping her out of her thoughts. A slender servant walked toward her before finishing, "The Queen has requested you."

"For a feeding?" Cassie asked, hoping that it had nothing to do with Kahli.

"I'm not obligated to say, however since I'm not your Handler, I would think not."

Cassie's throat tightened and her pulse jumped. She nodded slowly. Before she could stand, Cole took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Cassie gave him a weak smile. "I'll see you tonight."

He nodded once, watching his sister walk off to be questioned by the most powerful vampire in the world.

Chapter 11

Sophia was agitated. Nothing was going the way she planned. When she tried to drink Kahli's blood, she could barely manage a drop, however her husband managed to swallow it fine with his throat still intact. That made Sophia ask for more, but the same thing happened. Every time she tried to drink Kahli's blood, it scorched her throat and caused a series of very uncomfortable sensations. It was like drinking toxins and her body couldn't tolerate it. The King had said to give it time, but he managed his share without issue. Sophia continued to request tastings without her husband, trying to build up her tolerance to the blood, but it was for nothing. And, now the girl was missing, and the King's rooms were filled with freshly spilled blood.

Sophia looked around his room. The scent of the wild girl's blood filled her nose like rich perfume. It made her feel lightheaded. Sophia smoothed her blue silk gown and stood, waiting. When Kahli could not be located, Sophia requested her roommates.

When the servant returned with only one girl, the Queen's expression was frigid. Her gaze narrowed on Cassie, on her pale face and tiny hands. "Where are the others?"

"Gone, your Majesty. We could not find them." The servant bowed low to the ground, her face nearly touching the blood-stained carpet.

"And my husband?" Sophia asked, before indicating the servant could rise.

"We have not found him, yet. There are multiple guards missing as well and a dead vampire in the garage." The servant's voice shook as she spoke.

"In addition to the King's guard?" Sophia inquired.

"Yes, your Majesty."

Sophia pinched the bridge of her nose with her delicate fingers. Cassie's frightened heartbeat was distracting her. She could hear it pounding inside the girl like a terrified mouse. If her roommates hadn't just been slaughtered, the Queen would have drained her then and there, but there were too many humans missing. They made up nearly a quarter of her blood supply.

"Sit," Sophia commanded, directing her attention back to Cassie.

Cassie had been brought to the King's chambers. It was a mess. Cassie scanned the room looking for a chair that wasn't stained with blood or broken. Promptly, she sat on the floor at the Queen's feet since there was no place else to sit.

Sophia sighed and snapped her fingers at one of her guards. "Get her a chair." The vamp disappeared and came back quickly with a small bench in his hands. He set it down next to Cassie.

Cassie repositioned herself on the bench and tried to look anywhere but at the Queen. Her attempt was pointless. They knew her real name. The vamps named her, so of course they knew it. That made compulsion easy for even the weakest vampire, and the Queen was not weak. Compulsion had been used on Cassie many times over the years, and she hated it more and more each time. It felt like her mind was stripped away and nothing was safe. It was like sitting outside in the snow and ice, nak*d, and hoping not to freeze to death. Harm came to people who were compelled too much. Their minds snapped like brittle twigs frozen in the ice for too many lifetimes. But, there was no way out of this.

Cassie folded her hands in her lap and tried to remain calm. The amount of blood in the room, the smears of dark red across the tile at the back of the room, made her feel sick. Was that Kahli's blood? Was her friend dead?

The Queen snapped her fingers next to Cassie's ear. The sound startled her, bringing her back to the present. The Queen repeated herself, "Where are your roommates?"

"I don't know, Your Majesty. They didn't return last night. The King beckoned each of them. They were dressed and left."

Sophia arched a dark brow. After a moment, she asked, "Kahli included?"

"Yes, she was the last to leave."

Sophia's delicate fingers tapped her chin as she thought. She turned her back on Cassie and paced the room, her gaze taking in the broken items, as well as the stains. The Queen's blue gown billowed around her ankles as she walked, fluttering out slightly when she turned, showing off perfect shoes on her tiny feet. Without facing Cassie, Sophia asked. "Did you see the King last night?"

Cassie hesitated. Sophia rounded on her swiftly, pressing her nose to Cassie's. "Yes," Cassie's voice quivered. She couldn't remember what they'd spoken about, but Cole had filled her in. Cassie wanted to protect Cole, so she didn't mention he was there. As long as Sophia didn't ask, she wouldn't know.

"Tell me what happened. Leave out one detail and I'll cleave you in half."

Cassie blanched. The Queen's breath came out in a rush, as Cassie started to retell what happened according to Cole. Sophia listened, pacing in circles with her hand under her chin, her gaze on the floor.

When she finished, Sophia asked, "And what do you think? Is your friend dead? Look around this room and tell me what your gut is telling you. Did she survive whatever happened here?"

Cassie glanced around, her eyes unable to rest in a single spot. There was a fight, that much she was sure of. The smears in the back of the room looked like someone was dragged, but the broken table and the way the bloodstains were littered across the carpet did give her an impression. "She fought back, and I would think she got away too, because of the dead guard at the door. Kahli wouldn't have killed him on the way into the room."

"And what of William? Did you see him last night? Do you think he aided her?"

Cassie shook her head, her blonde curls swaying as she did it. "No. Will doesn't fight like this. If this was his mess, no one would have found it." The Queen's dark brow lifted. "It would have been cleaned up before sunrise."

"So he did something else, and then fled along with Kahli?"

"I didn't say that," Cassie blanched. "You think Will attacked the King and kidnapped Kahli? That doesn't sound like him at all. He's served you forever. He defends you when people speak poorly of you. He risked his life the night your brother gifted Kahli to you. She stabbed him and he didn't even fight back. Will could have punched Kahli in the face and knocked her out. He didn't. Other Handlers would have. He knew what she was and how much she meant to you. Will's no traitor."

The Queen stared at Cassie, as she spoke. Her lips formed a thin line, as she listened to this little twit defend her most faithful servant. When the girl finished, Cassie realized that she spoke too freely, too plainly. Cassie lowered her gaze and bowed, saying, "Forgive me. I meant no disrespect, my Queen. You asked for my gut impression and that was it. Whatever happened here, Will was not involved."

Sophia stopped in front of the girl and bent at the waist. Taking Cassie's chin in her hand, Sophia tilted Cassie's face up. When the frightened girl met her gaze, Sophia asked, "Then, where is he?"

Chapter 12

Kahli swallowed hard. Looking up at Will, she said firmly, fighting to control her voice, "I don't know what you mean."

Will stepped back. His dark gaze left hers, as he glanced at the floor, and then at his hands. This was insane. Even saying it sounded too surreal, but it was necessary before they returned to the palace. He breathed deeply and looked up at her. Their connection was weak. It needed to be stronger. They needed to douse the King's pull on her. No matter what he did, Will would lose her if the King got to Kahli and Will wasn't there to protect her. This request was like putting a piece of glass in the way. It was an invisible barrier that would shatter when pressed hard enough, but it would slow the King down, and that was all Will could hope for.

Will pressed his lips together, deciding that the best thing to do was to say it directly. He glanced up at Kahli, his heart hammering in his chest. "There's a rule forbidding vampires from drinking directly from humans. No single vampire can be pair-bonded to a single human. The Queen forbids it. It weakens the humans too quickly and there aren't many left who can endure a direct bite and live."

Kahli's chest rose and fell as he spoke. The room felt warmer than it was. What was he saying? She didn't want to leap to the conclusion. Shaking her head, she stiffened, folding her arms over her chest and squeezing tight. "Why are you telling me this? What rule do you want to break, Will? You've already had my blood and I had yours. We're bonded, which I'm pretty sure means you're dead if we don't kill the Queen."

Will smiled forlornly, but he didn't step toward her. "The King drank directly from you, but you haven't been bonded to him. Yet. He will force it on you, as soon as you're within reach. If that happens, Kahli - there's nothing I can do to save you. You'll be his."

She blanched as Will spoke. He tried to maintain eye contact, but she looked away. Kahli's fingers were clutching her arms so hard that her knuckles paled and turned as white as her bodysuit. Finally, she asked, "And if we break a rule, it can prevent that?" Will nodded. "What rule?"

"The same one the King broke."

Kahli's jaw twitched. "What are you saying?"

Will watched her from across the room. He didn't want to force her, but he felt like she was going to run. Or fight. He didn't want to fight her anymore. "We need to work together or we'll die. You do understand that, right? No matter which way this pile of crap tumbles, you and I are screwed." She nodded. There were too many people who knew of her, of her blood, and every one of them would kill Will to get to her. "If you let me drink directly from you, if my fangs pierce your neck, it will - "

She flinched, "What? Your fangs? You don't - " but before she could finish talking, she knew she was wrong. Her heart hammered against her ribs, as she watched his lips part.

He smiled at her again, but it was the kind of smile that hid heartbreak. "Bane were created to drain humans. Of course I have fangs. The Queen's edict keeps me from using them." As he spoke, Kahli could see his white eyeteeth extend. They were sharper than any wolf's fang, extending into a narrow, lethal point.

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